Commission Minutes

May 15, 2015


Present[in person] Celeste Branham, Bonnie Bagley, Scott Blake, Kathy Billings, Janice Daku, Mark Hews, Ron Holmes, John Portella, Elizabeth Hite, Barbara Wentworth, Ed Barrett, Gordon Liu, David Wihry

Public Comment Period  
Goodwill Industries informed the Commission it was submitting a Youth Opportunity AmeriCorps proposal under a special, off-cycle competition CNCS has underway.

Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 10:03 am by Chair Ron Holmes. There were no additions or deletions to the agenda. After introductions, the Commissioner quiz answer was revealed. Two board members submitted correct answers.

The MCCS annual report was distributed. Commissioners can take additional copies to distribute locally during the year.

MCCS Chair Holmes announced new Commissioner appointments to task forces. Laura Hudson has been assigned to the Grant Selection and Performance Task Force; Elizabeth Hite is assigned to Public Information and Education.

The attendance poll for the July retreat showed that members are not available for any of the date combinations. The retreat will be moved to fall and combined with a regular business meeting.

Focus on Mission/Responsibilities     
A. New AmeriCorps Initiatives (Crofton)  
CNCS continues to open off-cycle special competitions for AmeriCorps State and National. These happen when CNCS finalizes a partnership with another federal agency whose funding window doesn't match the usual AmeriCorps timeline. Increasingly, the competition timeline is too short for states to participate so CNCS has all applicants submit directly with the understanding that CNCS will add any proposals selected for funding to a state portfolio. There was a brief outline of the pros and cons of this system. Top of the list is (con) there is little notice regarding what the purpose/focus of the AmeriCorps program will be so developing applicants in a state is extremely challenging. A related "pro" is that, by removing states from the competitive selection, the Commission can provide technical assistance to potential applicants right up to the deadline. It is recommended that Grants consider how MCCS should respond to these competitions.

Planning and Future Initiatives     
A. Franklin Project and Maine (Ashmore/Liu)  
Ashmore reported on a meeting between National Service programs and a representative of the Franklin Project. The meeting was in Hartford, CT, during the regional CNCS conference. Maine programs were briefed on the launch of Franklin's online platform for connecting those who want to serve with opportunities. The first big class of opportunities Franklin wants to use is AmeriCorps. Maine programs agreed to participate in the pilot roll out.

Two MCCS staff (Fitzpatrick and Ashmore) attended the Hartford regional meeting. One advance notice from CNCS was their intent to develop summer of service AmeriCorps programming for youth under 17. This requires a statutory change to lower the minimum age of AmeriCorps members but CNCS seems confident this will happen. Again, MCCS needs to conduct outreach and technical assistance to potential grantees well enough in advance of the competition to support strong planning.

Liu reported that his application to be a Franklin Ambassador from Maine. There is a gathering of all ambassadors in June at which they will be asked to develop events to conduct back home. The goal of the events and program is to connect a discussion of national service with the election, increase engagement in service, and develop a cadre of young service leaders in states. The national organizers have not provided any guidance on what the events should accomplish or the format.

Business Reports                                   
A. Minutes (Holmes)  
January. Action on the January business minutes was held over from March. Moved by Bagley to approve the minutes. Second by Barrett. Vote to pass motion was unanimous.

March. Draft of the minutes were posted. Moved by Barrett to approve the minutes. Second by Portella. Vote in favor - 13; against - 0; abstain - 2 (Branham, Daku).         

B. Executive Committee (Holmes)
In March, the Committee took action on behalf of the board. Moved by Hews to affirm the actions taken by Exec Committee. Second by Branham. Vote to pass was unanimous.

April minutes filed were informational. Holmes reviewed the items discussed. There were no requests for clarifications or comments.

C. Board Development (Branham)
Two new Commissioners have been seated. Elizabeth Hite represents CNCS. Laura Hudson takes the seat representing a community-based agency or organization. Drew Matlins has informed the officers he will leave the Commission.                                              

D. Resource Development (Hews)
This task force has merged into Executive Committee until October. Activities will be reported in those notes.    

E.Grants Task Force (Wihry)
The AmeriCorps Formula competition is underway. Four applications were received. No applications were submitted to the Rural AmeriCorps competition. The feedback leads us to believe there was insufficient time for people to learn about the option and plan programs. There are sufficient peer reviewers for the competition.       

F. ASC Public Policy Committee (Holmes)
The ASC sign-on letter to Congressional budgeting and oversight leadership seeks to have support from 700 state service commissioners. It will circulate one last time for signatures. The budget is an issue again and there is strong concern that CNCS will be hit hard. Details about why and the process will be circulated. The intent of the letter is to show federal legislators that states and commissioners are paying attention to their deliberations. Commissioners were reminded to review the email describing the ASC staff reorganization which is a very positive move. Tom will be able to spend more time on the Hill.     

G. Blaine House Conference (Liu/Wihry/Crofton)
Planning is just starting. It is 10 weeks late due to staff capacity and there is no chair to lead the effort. Commissioners are asked to consider supporting this effort which is the largest educational event and greatest generator of match.                                   

H. Public Information and Education/ Public Policy (Portela)
LD 916 , the act to create a private support organization for MCCS, has passed both chambers in the legislature and been sent to the governor. He has 10 days to sign or let it become law with no signature. The next steps will fall to Exec Committee since they entail creating the organization.

April and May have been exceedingly busy with public events. All have been successful: Governor's Awards for Service and Volunteerism; Youth Volunteer Recognition at Portland Pirates; National Service Legislative Awareness Day; and Volunteer Roll of Honor Recognition at the Seadogs.

I. Excellence and Expertise (Hews)
Task force notes from meeting were posted. One item for Commission action is the recommendation the Commission formally offer support to Gordon Liu as Maine's Franklin Ambassador. In response to a question about what the commitment would mean, Hews noted it makes the Ambassador effort less of a one person project because Liu can say he has the full and formal backing of the Commission. Excellence and Expertise will take responsibility for monitoring what support is needed. Moved by Hews to commit the Commission to supporting the work of Maine's Franklin Ambassador. Second by Daku. Vote to pass unanimous.

The task force is also finalizing an online application that it will use to recruit public members to serve with Commissioners. The application may be useful to other task forces.          

J. MCCS Staff Report (Ashmore)  
CNCS has notified MCCS of its initial funding decisions for AmeriCorps Competitive grants. The announcement is not final and is an unusual step. Final decisions are to be revealed at the end of May or early June. Island Institute was not funded. There was discussion of what was learned about the process and flaws that became evident. Maine Conservation Corps has been placed on a "wait list" which means CNCS will make a final decision on funding after it determines the level of unexpended funds. The continuation grants - LearningWorks and Bangor Opportunity AmeriCorps - were funded for their third year.

K. CNCS field office (Hite)
The Washington CNCS office has selected a new person to oversee State Offices. Michael Harrington will return to CNCS to take this post. In a significant change, VISTA has implemented a policy that allows VISTA members to have other employment. This ends a 50 year policy that prohibited VISTAs from having other income or any employment during service. VISTA has also posted for public comment proposed rules and policies that will standardize portions of its operation. As part of Senior Corps week, a Senior Corps pledge is being introduced. Finally, the ME/NH/VT State Office is participating in a social media pilot program.

L. Other  
Barret inquired about the transfer of the Bangor AmeriCorps program from Eastern Maine Community College to Eastern Maine Development Corps. Ashmore responded that CNCS had authorized the transfer, the technical difficulties had been resolved, and the transfer had happened. Barrett recognized the significant effort Ashmore put into making this happen.                          

There being no other business, members were reminded the June agenda will have significant grant decisions. The meeting will be June 19, 2015.

Moved by Hews to adjourn. Second by Portella. Vote in favor was unanimous.